From the Ground Up: Rural Representation in the Texas Legislature

Texas agricultural producers are always a little nervous when the Texas Legislature is in session, concerned probably most with legislation that is being considered that could have unintended negative consequences on agricultural operations.

With less rural districts than ever before, the debate over big issues like water can cause producers to worry about whether or not their urban counterparts understand how important agriculture is to our state, and indeed our country.

District 80 State Representative Tracy King says agriculture is just as important as it’s ever been.

“ It’s just that there’s a lot fewer people participating in production agriculture than there used to be, and that brings on the challenges that we’ve seen in terms of making people understand why it’s important that we be able to continue to operate without unnecessary environmental regulations with the tax structure that’s in place today.” (25:03)

King chairs the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee, and says the legislature has changed over the past few years.

"It’s not nearly as rural as it used to be. We’ve had two re-districtings in that time and so we’ve got probably seven or eight less rural districts than we used to have, or more between West Texas and East Texas.”

State Senator Glenn Hegar’s district includes Burleson and Lee Counties.

“I made the point that we had breakfast this morning. Everybody listening on the radio had breakfast. Everybody’s going to have lunch, and everybody’s going to have dinner, everybody through the whole state. That doesn’t matter whether you’re in rural, suburban, urban, and the point being is that people have to eat and they like to eat, and so it doesn’t just show up in the grocery store, somebody has to raise it.” (22:00)

Hegar says many folks in urban areas tend to forget about their connection to agriculture when it comes time to argue about water.

“And you know just take it from agriculture. Did you like breakfast? You want to do without it? And you know sometimes it isn’t just, I kind of look at it and keep it simple. I mean that’s a real simple statement, but it’s one that I think people can get.”

The state helping address water issues being faced by urban areas should take some of the pressure off of agriculture.

“Continuing to have dollars, state tax dollars, ours as tax payers to be able to help finance and put more water projects on the ground is vital for the survival of the state and really for agriculture even more so.”

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